Dean Regas was used to delivering astronomy lessons to groups of eager listeners. But this was different. There were millions of people hanging on his every word, just none of them could be seen. They were all on the other end of the TV camera. The Cincinnati Observatory outreach astronomer is guest-hosting 18 episodes of the popular TV show “Star Gazer,” which is shown weekly on most public television stations.
For 35 years, the quirky show, which airs in one-minute and five-minute episodes, featured founder Jack Horkheimer delivering a weekly astronomy lesson about what was happening in the skies. In his raspy voice, Horkheimer exhorted his loyal viewers to go outside and see for themselves.
Sadly, Horkheimer died last summer after a lengthy illness, but Miami station WPBT is continuing to produce the shows. Regas, who’s developed a reputation as Cincinnati’s go-to astronomer since joining the Observatory in 2000, was asked to step in temporarily. The station is holding a competition for Horkheimer’s replacement, and Regas is, of course, in the running. He hopes his experience with the show gives him a leg up, because even though the host receives no pay, Regas enjoys the work and thinks the exposure is great for the Cincinnati Observatory.
“I think that it’s a very unique way to get astronomy to people, and I think a lot of people have an interest in space on so many different levels,” he says. “With a show like this, you can really motivate them. That’s the thing about astronomy. You tell them to go out and see Jupiter, and they do, and there it is.”
Regas, a 1996 history graduate who also earned a Master of Education in 2008, was nervous at the first taping in November. Unsure what to do with his hands, he actually pointed to the wrong planets one time. “So the first couple of shows I kept my hands down and didn’t point to anything. But by the third show, I started feeling pretty good.”
His best one, he says, was his most recent—a script he wrote about the constellations Orion and the Seven Sisters. “It’s my favorite constellation, and I could throw in my jokes and stuff,” he says.